M’sian Community Wins Facebook Accelerator

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From a pool of 14,000 global applicants for the 2021 Facebook Community Accelerator, only 128 were selected. Of those 128 applicants, only 19 were from the Asia Pacific region.

And from Malaysia, there were four.

The four communities that were selected included the PhD, Entrepreneurs and Startups Support Group in Malaysia, Gabungan Anak-Anak Palsi Serebrum (GAPS), and KakiRepair by KakiDIY.

Eight months ago, the Vulcan Post spoke with the four to learn more about their goals with the program. On May 12, we found out that a Malaysian community builder had made it to the final and will receive an additional $30,000 in funding: Johnson Lam of KakiRepair by KakiDIY.

Eight months of grinding

Johnson started the Facebook group in 2017 as a passion project, wanting to encourage others to learn how to fix and repair things instead of immediately throwing them into landfills. He had a clear mission of what he wanted, but he wasn’t entirely sure how to achieve it.

That’s where the community accelerator came in handy.

With an initial budget of $50,000, Johnson and his team created a development plan for the eight-month program. Through the accelerator, they were given access to and knowledge of Facebook tools. Participants were also able to experience new and exclusive features.

For example, KakiRepair now has an online store within their Facebook group. Generally, only Business Pages can start Facebook Shops. On top of that, they now have membership subgroups.

Through a direct connection with the Facebook product team, he learned more about Facebook’s algorithm and technology, such as the AI ​​features, which autonomously moderate the KakiRepair page for the most part.

In addition to building his own community, Johnson was also able to connect with other communities in the Asia Pacific cohort, even considering the other 18 participants as “family members” now.

“We’re connected to these like-minded community builders, so we share best practices, we share pain points and how we handle conflict and keyboard warriors,” Johnson said. “We learn from the mistakes of others to grow our group and our community.”

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Image Credit: Kaki Repair

Although technically the show is now officially over, he says that the group chat with the other members is still active.

Facebook also selected an esteemed panel of mentors and coaches from around the world to improve the skills of the cohort. This included experts in sustainability, growth, scaling, and even psychologists.

“He led KakiRepair in ways we never thought possible,” said Johnson.

A well-oiled, self-sufficient community

For years, Johnson has been funding KakiRepair out of his own pocket. But with the help of the community accelerator, KakiRepair has grown to become financially sustainable.

First, the team launched a knowledge management platform website. Here, all DIY ideas and repair tips can be found in one centralized space. Since it is Johnson’s website, you can easily monetize it as well. As such, the platform is now fully self-funded.

The accelerator also cut short its five-year plan to create a mobile home equipped with all the necessary tools that can move around Malaysia to help with repairs. It is an upgraded version of the now familiar MakerVan, and is currently mostly finished and awaiting implementation.

Another project KakiRepair is working on is a six-tier toolkit. And it’s not just any normal toolkit: each item in the kit will come with a QR code that takes users to the knowledge management platform, which then teaches them how to use the tool.

Image Credit: Kaki Repair

And as icing on the cake, the group had 19,000 members when we last spoke. Now, it has 47K members and counting.

According to Johnson, the final stage of the accelerator program will last until July, with the goal of completing more than 50% of what was planned.

But KakiRepair has already achieved more than 100% of its plans since March, Johnson said. “I’m a bit gifted. I’m aiming for 1,000%,” he chuckled.

With the team already completing the five-year plan to create an RV, Johnson is taking the lead in his plan to take KakiRepair overseas.

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In fact, at the time of this writing, you may already be in the Philippines, planning to teach others how to organize repair events.

The pandemic and the floods ruined their plans

Of course, the trip wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There were certainly some bumps in the road, the most obvious being the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, Johnson said he was in a “depressed mode” and nearly wiped out the entire KakiRepair group. He felt that the group was not creating much of an impact.

“We can’t go out there and fix things, and there are so many haters and comments saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ ‘How stupid, go fix things for free,’” Johnson shared. “So, he was pretty bummed out.”

But eventually, Johnson began to change the way he did things. He ran 30-minute live events at first that ended up running for two hours. That’s when he realized there it was demand for said service and, steadily, the Facebook group grew.

Another challenge came when the entire team was sick with COVID at one point. Johnson himself suffered from a prolonged case of COVID, and is even feeling its effects to this day.

“When I was doing a demo day [for the accelerator], I had brain fog and I wasn’t even myself,” he said. Fortunately, he managed to pass on the points from him despite the illness.

The flood that happened last year was also a problem for the team, and it seemed like there was nothing they could do about it.

Later, Johnson realized he could mobilize the community by starting volunteer programs to help those affected by the flood repair their items instead of throwing them away.

Image Credit: Kaki Repair

“This was not part of the development plan,” Johnson said. “But it showed so much impact that it became a significant result in the development plan.”

The crew flew six repair missions, repairing more than $50,000 worth of electronics, Johnson estimated. His efforts also helped KakiRepair’s brand and reputation. With a simple twist, Johnson had turned an unfortunate circumstance into a beneficial one.

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Being Community Driven VS Profit Driven

As our interview with Johnson drew to a close, we curiously asked him a burning question on our minds.

With KakiRepair now monetizing and financially self-sufficient, where do you draw the line between remaining a community organization and becoming a business?

Did it boil down to being community driven versus profit driven? “Yes, actually, the answer is already there,” she noted.

At the end of the day, he clarified that there is nothing good or bad behind a community leader’s decision to transition their activities to be more business-focused. In fact, he said that Facebook encouraged that.

However, for him personally, he is choosing to keep it community driven. Of course, he is aware that repair centers are a lucrative business, but he has no plans to start one of his own now or in the near future.

Instead, if anyone wants to start their own use of the KakiRepair brand and influence, he invited them to get in touch for a chat.

Empowering other Malaysian leaders

The 2022 Facebook Community Accelerator is likely to happen soon, and for those interested in joining, Johnson had some advice.

He listed three criteria for community builders. First, you must be sure of what you want for your community. Second, you need to be clear about the impact you are providing.

The third is being able to sustain the community to scale and grow. This includes sustainability not only in terms of finances, but also in terms of content.

2021 was the first year Malaysians were able to join the accelerator, making KakiRepair the first Malaysian group to receive additional funding and essentially “win” on the show.

With KakiRepair at the helm, Johnson hopes to see more Malaysians prosper through the Facebook Community Accelerator.

  • Learn more about KakiRepair here.
  • Learn more about Facebook Community Accelerator 2021 here.

Featured Image Credit: KakiRepair by KakiDIY


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